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German Chancellor Angela Merkel Ready to Step Down From Party Leadership
Written by <a href="index.php?option=com_comprofiler&task=userProfile&user=49423"><span class="small">Griff Witte and Rick Noack, The Washington Post</span></a>   
Monday, 29 October 2018 08:43

Excerpt: "German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Monday she is ready to hand over the leadership of her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) later this year, an unexpected decision that offered the clearest indication to date that her time at the helm of Europe’s largest economy is running out."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel. (photo: EPA)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel. (photo: EPA)


German Chancellor Angela Merkel Ready to Step Down From Party Leadership

By Griff Witte and Rick Noack, The Washington Post

29 October 18

 

erman Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Monday she is ready to hand over the leadership of her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) later this year, an unexpected decision that offered the clearest indication to date that her time at the helm of Europe’s largest economy is running out.

Merkel also said she will not run for office again, and will retire from politics when her current term expires in 2021. But with political pressure on her growing and her government both unpopular and unstable, it was unclear whether she will be able to last even that long.

Merkel has been CDU chairwoman since 2000 and while her departure from the party post would not automatically result in her stepping down as German chancellor, the move is an acknowledgment of her increasingly vulnerable position. 

Merkel herself has said in the past that the chancellor should also be the leader of the ruling party. But she said Monday that she had changed her mind over the summer, as indications mounted that “we cannot continue with business as usual.”

“The time has come to open a new chapter,” Merkel told a Berlin news conference.

Reports of the announcement set off a flurry of speculation in the German media over who would succeed Merkel. The 64-year-old has led Germany for the past 13 years and, until recently, had not been seen as grooming a successor. 

Earlier this year, however, she appeared to have given her blessing to Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the one-time leader of the west German state of Saarland and now the CDU’s general secretary. 

Kramp-Karrenbauer is seen as a moderate in the Merkel tradition, and German media reported Monday she will be a candidate for the party’s top job.

But the conservative wing of the CDU is also expected to mount a challenge. Health Minister Jens Spahn, 38, and Friedrich Merz, a former parliamentary leader of the CDU, were both named Monday in German news reports as candidates.

The CDU is expected to select its new chair in December at a party conference in the northern German city of Hamburg. Until Monday, it had been widely expected that Merkel would run for reelection, though there had been speculation that she could face a challenge as the party’s poll numbers have plummeted and regional elections have yielded a string of poor results.

Merkel’s decision comes one day after her party suffered massive losses during regional elections in the state of Hesse, which has long been a bellwether for the nation. Just two weeks ago, the CDU’s sister party, the Christian Social Union, sustained similar losses in its home state of Bavaria.

The move also comes a month after Merkel’s longtime floor leader in the German parliament, Volker Kauder, was unexpectedly defeated in an internal party vote. The loss for the longtime Merkel confidant marked a rare moment when the CDU’s elected officials have defied the chancellor’s will. 

Until last fall, Merkel was in a familiar position: the unquestionably dominant figure in German politics, with few real rivals. But national elections in September 2017 delivered an unexpectedly poor result for the CDU, and the chancellor’s hold on power has never been the same since. 

Sunday’s election for the state parliament in Hesse — home of Frankfurt, the heart of German finance — gave Merkel’s center-right CDU 27 percent of the vote.

That was good enough for first place, but down 11 percent since the state last voted, in 2013, and represents the party’s worst performance there in more than half a century. Merkel on Monday described the results as “bitter” and “disappointing.”

Backing for Merkel’s coalition partner, the center-left Social Democrats (SPD), also plummeted, falling from 31 percent to 20 percent — a low not seen in 72 years. The Social Democrats’ weak performance in regional elections this year in Hesse and Bavaria has added pressure on their national leadership to force Merkel into more concessions.

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